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Northwestern makes tests optional for class of 2025 applicants

Temporary policy change acknowledges pandemic-related obstacles to taking standardized tests

Students applying for the 2025 class at Northwestern University will not be required to submit an SAT or ACT score, University officials announced Thursday.

The temporary test-optional policy for the 2020–2021 admission cycle is in response to myriad obstacles students face — especially those from low-income backgrounds — in scheduling standardized testing opportunities amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. First-year applicants may submit an SAT or ACT score if they wish, but scores are not required. 

Northwestern’s review process will remain grounded in a holistic approach coupled with a commitment to college access. The admissions committee will continue to weigh each applicant’s academic and intellectual fit for Northwestern through a comprehensive assessment of grades, course rigor, recommendations, academic honors or awards, personal essays and other information specific to applicants’ individual experiences and high school settings.

“Holistic review means we connect the dots among different parts of your application and make our best judgement based on the picture that emerges,” said Liz Kinsley, Northwestern’s director of undergraduate admission.

In a blog post for prospective students, Kinsley said that the modified testing policy means that for some applicants this year, those “dots” will not include test scores. 

“Indeed, many ‘dots’ will look different in light of the pandemic: disrupted courses, pass/no pass grades, extracurricular commitments put on hold, unforeseen family circumstances and more,” she wrote. “Our holistic process is built to weigh the diversity of circumstances you’re experiencing during these unprecedented times.” 

Kinsley said Northwestern’s admissions committee has long been committed to understanding an applicant’s individual context before evaluating their materials. 

“This year will be no different, and students can trust that their applications will be reviewed fairly in light of the profoundly difficult events shaping our world today,” she said.

For more information about the admissions process at Northwestern, visit the University’s Undergraduate Admissions website.